Tomb Sweeping Day’s Chinese name, 清明节 (Qīng Míng Jiē), literally means “clear bright festival”. Clear and bright refer to the arrival of spring. However, Tomb Sweeping Day is also known as Cold Food Day 寒食节 (hán shí jiē). Why? Read on to find out.
清明节 (Qīng Míng Jiē) is celebrated on April 5th, 2010 . It is a time to honor ancestors who’ve passed on by visiting their graves, clearing off debris or weeds, and offering flowers, food and incense at the grave site and the ancestral altar at home. 清明节 (Qīng Míng Jiē) is also a time for flying kites of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Many Chinese also burn paper money 烧纸钱 (shāo zhǐ qián) in order to send money that the deceased can use in the underworld. Some also burn cars, houses, and other useful objects to send them to the other side. (By the way, note that 烧纸钱 (shāo zhǐ qián) is not the same thing as 烧钱 (shāo qián), which means to spend money rashly. Don’t get it mixed up!)
But what’s the deal with the cold food?
According to English Bus Club’s blog post on 清明节,
“Qing Ming is popularly associated with Jie Zi Zhui, who lived in Shanxi province in 600 B.C. Legend has it that Jie saved his starving lord’s life by serving a piece of his own leg. When the lord succeeded in becoming the ruler of a small principality, he invited his faithful follower to join him. However, Jie declined his invitation, preferring to lead a hermit’s life with his mother in the mountains.
Believing that he could force Jie out by burning the mountain, the lord ordered his men to set the forest on fire. To his consternation, Jie chose to remain where he was and was burnt to death. To commemorate Jie, the lord ordered all fires in every home to be put out on the anniversary of Jie’s death. Thus began the “cold food feast”, a day when no food could be cooked since no fire could be lit.
The “cold food” festival occurs on the eve of Qing Ming and is often considered as part of the Qing Ming festival. As time passes, the Qing Ming festival replaced the “cold food” festival.”